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Heat dome: What is the extreme weather pattern causing record temperatures and wildfires? | Climate News

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Heat domes are becoming a more regular weather phenomenon as entire regions deal with increasingly extreme heat and wildfires.

Villages in Turkey, Greece and Italy have been engulfed this July and August, and tourists evacuated by boat from beaches as temperatures reached 47C (116F).

In June, record temperatures hit North America, with more than 100 people dying in the northwestern US and Canada.

Both these extreme weather events were caused by heat domes.

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Sky reporter at edge of Turkey wildfires

What is a heat dome?

It’s when an area of high pressure stays over a large part of a region for days, or even weeks.

Like a lid on a saucepan, it traps hot air underneath, and can cause heatwaves with temperatures well above the norm.

How does a heat dome form?

Hot air expands vertically into the atmosphere then high pressure from above means it has nowhere to escape and pushes that warm air down.

As the warm air sinks, it compresses and heats up, which then traps more heat underneath.

The ground then heats up and loses moisture which makes it heat up even more, and means it is ripe for fires to start.

The dome of high pressure also pushes the clouds around it, keeping the heat in even more.

Usually, winds can move the high pressure around but as the dome stretches high into the atmosphere, the high pressure system becomes very slow moving, almost stationary.

What has caused the European heat dome?

Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon told Sky News: “The jet stream has dipped south across western Europe and extended into northeast Europe, allowing a ridge to develop across southeast Europe.

“Within the ridge, the air has become warmer day-on-day.”

Wildfire rips through Italian beach resort
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A wildfire in a Sicilian beach resort in July

Warm air from a Saharan dust cloud has also contributed to the warmer than usual temperatures

The high pressure from the jet stream ridge and the Saharan warm air has been stuck over southeast Europe for a while, maintaining temperatures 10C to 15C above average.

Are heat domes rare occurrences?

They are quite common in temperate zones but they are getting more intense and regular in areas that do not usually see such extreme heat.

Scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found the main trigger is a strong change in ocean temperatures during the preceding winter.

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Wildfires ravage Canadian town amid heatwave

For the US, this happens in the Pacific Ocean.

The NOAA scientists said it is like a swimming pool when the heater is turned on – “temperatures rise quickly in the areas surrounding the heater jets, while the rest of the pool takes longer to warm up”.

They said the western Pacific’s temperatures have risen over the past few decades compared with the eastern Pacific, “creating a strong temperature gradient – or pressure differences that drive wind – across the entire ocean in winter”.

The gradient causes more warm air through convection, which is heated by the ocean surface and rises over the western Pacific, decreasing convection over the central and eastern Pacific.

Prevailing winds move the hot air east, towards the US, and the jet stream traps the air, moving it towards land where it sinks to cause heatwaves.

Wildfires in Pescara, eastern Italy
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Wildfires in Pescara, eastern Italy

In Europe, the water temperatures are high, especially across the Baltic region where they are more than 6C above normal.

The Atlantic Ocean around the UK and Ireland was about 2-4C above the norm for the end of July.

But it is the Mediterranean, which is warmer than other European seas anyway, that is the most concerning, with sea temperatures nearly 3C above the long-term average.

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US-Mexico border crisis: Vehicles form barrier at Texas crossing to deter Haitian migrants – as VP Kamala Harris criticises ‘horrible’ tactics | US News

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Parked vehicles have created a steel barrier which stretches for miles along the US border with Mexico in the latest measure to deter migrants from crossing into Texas.

The US has been expelling Haitians from a large makeshift camp at the border, which at one point had attracted more than 12,000 migrants.

Around 8,600 people remain at the camp beneath the Del Rio International Bridge, which spans the Rio Grande from Texas to Mexico’s Ciudad Acuna, after more than 3,000 migrants were moved.

Texas Department of Safety vehicles line up along the bank of the Rio Grande near an encampment of migrants, many from Haiti, near the Del Rio International Bridge, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico. 
PIC:AP
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The vehicles have been lined up along the bank of the Rio Grande near the camp. Pic: AP

Law enforcement officers on horseback were pictured using what appeared to be aggressive tactics against the migrants – and a barrier has now been set up along the border, using vehicles belonging to the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, has backed his approval of the tactics – and criticised the Biden administration for not doing more, claiming local people and officials had “taken the lead on securing the border”.

But US Vice President Kamala Harris criticised the way the migrants had been treated, when she said: “What I saw depicted, those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible.”

She added she supported an investigation into the horseback incidents, while homeland security officials called the images “extremely troubling”.

In recent days, US authorities have removed at least 4,000 people from the site for processing in detention centres.

More than 500 Haitians have been deported to their homeland on four flights, with repatriations set to continue on a regular basis, the US Department of Homeland Security said.

A U.S. border patrol officer grabs the shirt of a migrant trying to return to the United States along the Rio Grande river, after having crossed from the United States into Mexico to buy food, as seen from Ciudad Acuna, in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
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A migrant is pursued by a US patrol along the Rio Grande river

Some of those returned reacted angrily as they stepped off flights at Port-au-Prince airport in the Haitian capital after spending large amounts of money to travel from the troubled Caribbean nation via South America, hoping for a better life in the US.

The disturbances underscored the instability in the Caribbean nation – it is the poorest in the Western hemisphere, where a presidential assassination, rising gang violence, and a major earthquake have spread chaos in recent weeks.

The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former president Donald Trump in March 2020, which allows for migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum.

Unaccompanied children are exempt from the order, a decision which was made by President Joe Biden.

 United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021. - The United States said Saturday it would ramp up deportation flights for thousands of migrants who flooded into the Texas border city of Del Rio, as authorities scramble to alleviate a burgeoning crisis for President Joe Biden's administration
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Tactics by US border patrols on horseback have been widely criticised. Pic: Getty Images
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. take shelter in make-shift migrant camp near the International Bridge between Mexico and the U.S., as they wait to be processed, in Del Rio, Texas, U.S. September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Go Nakamura
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Migrants seeking asylum in the US take shelter near the Del Rio International Bridge

Mexico has also begun moving Haitian migrants away from the border, authorities said on Tuesday, signalling their support for the US as the situation creates a political headache for Mr Biden.

Republican politicians with an eye on the 2022 midterm elections, when they will bid to retake control of Congress, have been quick to portray the camp as the result of a push to end some migration restrictions.

There are also reports that some of the Haitian migrants facing expulsion back to their homeland are instead being released in the US, with some observed at the Del Rio bus station by Associated Press journalists.

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Lithuanian defence ministry urges people to ‘throw away’ Chinese phones after discovering censorship tools | Science & Tech News

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The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence has urged people to stop buying Chinese phones and throw away the ones they already possess after discovering censorship software.

It followed a report from the country’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) which found that Xiaomi devices were censoring terms deemed to be offensive to Beijing.

According to an analysis by the Lithuanian NCSC, the Chinese company’s flagship devices sold in Europe have a built-in ability to detect and censor particular terms.

The phrases included “demonstration”, “free Tibet”, “long live Taiwan independence”, and “church” according to the Lithuanian authorities.

Although the censorship capability had been turned off for devices in the European Union, the ministry of defence warned that it could be turned on remotely.

“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” said Defence Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius, according to Reuters.

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Chinese Ambassador banned from parliament: ‘Standing up for free speech is critical’

A spokesperson for Xiaomi declined to comment when contacted by Sky News.

The call to throw away Chinese phones comes amid growing tensions between Lithuania and China over the former’s support for Taiwan – which China claims as part of its own territory.

China demanded Lithuania recall its ambassador in Beijing last month and recalled its own envoy from Vilnius in a protest over Taiwan announcing its mission in the country would use the name of Taiwan, instead of the city of Taipei, which is typically used in other European nations and in the US.

Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber security expert at the University of Surrey, told Sky News: “We all know there are different builds of phones for different countries. If you want to sell a device in a country then you have to obey the laws there.

“But to have censorship software left in that can be remotely activated… that’s a whole different level of one country effectively exporting its domestic regulations via technology,” he said.

Professor Woodward said he could understand the thought process behind the Lithuanian warning: that if one Chinese vendor has included a censorship capability to please Beijing then that made it harder to trust others haven’t done so too.

“Lithuania is a small market so I can imagine this might blow over, but the censorship software seemed to specifically be addressing items that were part of the tension between the two countries,” added Professor Woodward.

“That starts to look like a deliberate attempt to interfere,” he said.

“I’m sure other countries are also looking at these devices, so it behoves the Chinese government to make sure that they aren’t trying to export their censorship regulations elsewhere or else they could destroy trust in all Chinese vendors, and that won’t end well for anyone.”

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Boris Johnson says France needs to ‘get a grip’ amid anger over AUKUS pact | Politics News

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Boris Johnson has said France should get over its anger at a partnership between the UK, US and Australia that saw the latter pull out of a major contract with Paris for submarines.

“What I want to say about that is I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip [get a grip] about all this and donnez-moi un break [give me a break],” the prime minister said when asked about the continuing row over the AUKUS initiative.

“This is fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It’s three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder and creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology.

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‘AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever’

“It’s not exclusive, it’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It is not adversarial towards China, for instance.

“It is there to intensify links and friendship between three countries in a way that I think will be beneficial for things that we believe in.”

The AUKUS deal saw the UK, Australia and the US form a trilateral security pact to develop and deploy nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western military presence in the Pacific region.

Nuclear-powered submarines are superior to their diesel counterparts, as they can operate more quietly and stay underwater for longer.

France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in a backlash over the new security partnership, with foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian describing it as a “stab in the back”.

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